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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Earlier this year the death was announced of the veteran Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson, a significant influence at various stages of my musical life. I first encountered his work in a programme note for the QEH performance by John Ogdon of Sorabji’s “Opus Clavicembalisticum” in 1988…in fact, was was seated almost behind him during that legendary event. As this was a period of involuntary “exile” from Scotland, I was fascinated to discover a composer from my own part of the UK, though his scores were not easily come by: this was before the heroic publishing project undertaken by the Ronald Stevenson Society. A decade later, having managed to return to Scotland, I attended a performance of the DSCH Passacaglia in St Andrews played by Murray MacLachlan in 1998, Ronald’s 70th anniversary year: I was, at the time, a “matriculated student” at the onetime seat of learning in that burgh. Another decade was to pass before I spoke to the now octogenarian composer at the celebratory events at St John, Smith Square, and also attended the final Ronald Stevenson summer school held in the diminutive cathedral at Millport, during which I had the honour of performing a couple of Ronald’s smaller organ pieces in concert alongside some illustrious musicians, aswell as playing Shostakovich’s little played organ Passacaglia. I saw him at a few events over the next few years, most notably when Ronald and Marjorie attended a recital including a number of his works which I played with soprano Chloe Foston at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011.

It was only natural, therefore, that I should want to pay some sort of tribute at the passing of this influential figure: so far I have played four lunchtime concerts in Dundee and Aberdeen; next February, I’ll play a full length recital in Edinburgh Society of Musicians of which he was, until his death, a patron.

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The previous post on this blog, pertaining to the increasingly controversial exPM of the UK, Sir Edward Heath, very likely appears out of place; however, his sole appearance in my life-experience was as a musician.(Indeed I was born while he was incumbent in 10 Downing Street-perhaps the only time the post has been held by someone with a serious interest in music: though Disraeli did write on the important role of Jews in our musical culture…if only Heath, our worst PM in 300 years, had had a fraction of Beaconsfield’s political talent…)

The occasion was a concert celebrating the retirement of the controversial Tory peer, Lord Aldington (the controversy being that he was accused of war crimes in Yugoslavia at the end of WW2 in Count Tolstoy’s book “The Minister and the Massacres” ,on which account he was later awarded record damages)….Heath conducted only one item: Wagner’s prelude to “Die Meistersinger”. It’s hard to think he was unaware of the political symbolism: this was the only opera permitted to be performed at Bayreuth throughout the war. The only other piece I remember on the programme was the Adagietto from Mahler 5, which I later learnt was used in Visconti’s film of “Death in Venice”, made when Heath was in office. Interestingly, Britten’s operatic treatment of the Mann novella also dates from the Heath years (1970-1974).